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2Oct/100

50 Years of Yabba Dabba Do

It's rare for a TV show that turns 50 years old to be remembered, yet alone to make the front page on Google, but that's what happened to the Flinstones.

The show began in 1960 on ABC and has spawned numerous TV spinoffs, movies, and one-shot TV specials. Some of these efforts have been of dubious quality, but what keeps the remakes and spinoffs coming is that the show has so many fans that anything with the Flinstones in it will have an instant appeal.

The 1960-66 original TV run remains the bedrock (pun intended) for the Flinstones franchise. The show is in the same style of other classic "everyman" sitcoms such as The Life of Riley and The Honeymooners.  The show was lead by veteran radio and cartoon actors Alan Reed and Mel Blanc. It was strengthened by good writing that took advantage of the show's fantastic setting and the opportunities presented by cartoon physics.

What has made the show so popular for so long?

The first key is animation. Parents introduce their kids to cartoons such as Looney Tunes and Disney's gigantic cartoon collection.  They're the type of shows that parents have no problem introducing their kids to. And the grown up nature of the Flintstones helps to keep kids fans after they've grown up, even if they don't advertise it. They just buy the DVDs for the kids.

The second thing is the fantastic stone age setting. With pet dinosaurs instead of pet dogs, cars that move by the passengers and driver running, stone-age Television, and all the conveniences of living in Bedrock make the setting timeless, and help make the show as enjoyable and accessible today as when it first aired.

The Jetsons, which launched two years after the Flintstones, has endured, but with far fewer spin-offs and less prominence. The reason The Jetsons has enjoyed a lesser success is that it's set in the future and its vision of the future often seems dated. After all,  2062 is only 50 years away and its unlikely to be the world the creators of the Jetsons imagined.

The other advantage that The Flintstones has is the relationship between the Rubbles and the Flintstones. The friendship and love between the classic characters makes the show speak to every generation.   

Shows about the present and the future become dated far more easily than shows about a fantastic past, and shows that feature great friendships will last the longest of all.

Links:

Watch the Flinstones at AOL Video.

20Mar/101

Cartoons that Loved the Classics

Outside of watching a lot of old movies growing up, thanks to my dad, if I were to attribute my love of classic films and radio to anything modern, I'd have to say that the Steven Speilberg cartoons of the early-to-mid 1990s would be a strong candidate.

Steven Speilberg produced not one, but three seperate cartoon series, which stand out from most modern series in that, to one extent or another, they each payed homage to the classics that came before. The goal was to produce shows that parents could watch with their children and both have a good time.

Tiny Toons Adventures brought back some of the classic cartoon characters as professors at Acme Looniversity. One episode in particular involved one of the young cartoon characters trying to bing a long forgotten 1930s cartoon.

Animaniacs billed itself as a real throwback to the 1930s, with its premise that the three stars had starred in old style cartoons and then been locked in a water tower for over sixty years until "they escaped." The comic stylings of Yacko Warner were very reminsicent of Groucho Marx.

But perhaps the most nostalgic of the three shows was Pinky and the Brain. The show's plot centered around two lab mice with designs on World domination. One was a frantic manic scatterbrain, while the other was a high IQ mouse that dreamed of world domination.

The show was perhaps the most intelligent cartoon show of its time. Its plots borrowed heavily from classics of television, film, and literature, as well as its satire of modern popular culture. Pinky and the Brain offered their takes on Around the World in 80 Days,  The Third Man, and one plot even involved the Brain's plan to take over the world through the power of radio with a parody of The Shadow. The Brain also plots to take over the World using Orson Welles famous War of the Worlds broadcast as a basis for his plot.

The Brain was consciously modeled in many ways after Orson Welles, and his entire character is somewhat reminiscent of Orson Welle's Harry Lime. His goal of world domination should make us hate the Brain, but the audience can't help but like him, and even pity him as he goes through his many trials.

Maurice LaMarche who did the voice of the Brain is a big Orson Welles afficianado. One of the more interesting Pinky and the Brain shorts had LaMarche recreating Orson Welle's famous pea soup commercial in a G-rated version.

While many of the episodes have become dated by references to politicians like Clinton and Gingrich, the most timeless ones were those that took a look back to some of the best of the past.  For more on the links between Brain and Orson Welles, read here.

   

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